madeindcWard 6 Councilman Charles Allen introduced a bill today that will make it easier for District residents to shop locally.

The Made in DC Program Establishment Act of 2015 would task the District Department of Small and Local Business Development with making a “Made in D.C.” logo, brand and marketing campaign. The DSLBD would then certify local products and help market them at major District events.

“With the holiday season in full swing, I’m proud to help promote the District’s growing creator economy with a program to communicate the importance of buying local and having pride in DC-made products year-round,” Allen said in a statement about the bill.

The bill also includes instructions for the DSLBD to look into opportunities for a District-sponsored “innovation space” that would provide local artisans with studio space, shared equipment and classrooms.

The bill was co-introduced by District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Photo via Councilman Allen/ Compass Coffee


Hilly Awards Poster (Photo via CHAMPS)Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce, CHAMPS, will honor local businesses on Saturday night at the sixth annual Hilly Awards.

Awards will be handed out in over 22 categories at the awards gala at St. Mark’s Church (301 A St. SE). The ceremony will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. and will be hosted by Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen.

“The idea behind the awards is to provide a place for local businesses and, of course, our wonderful community to come together and celebrate the great work happening on Capitol Hill every day,” Hannah Jacobson, a member of the CHAMPS Board of Directors, said. “In particular we want to celebrate the small business owners that make this such a vibrant neighborhood.”

In addition to serving on the board of CHAMPS, Jacobson is also the director of marketing at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, which was nominated for best arts organization at this year’s awards.

Other award categories include best realtor, best fitness club, best non-profit and best pet services.

Food and drinks will be served at the gala and tickets can be purchased online.

Photo via CHAMPS


Riverby Books Capitol Hill (Photo via Facebook/ Riverby Books D.C.)(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) A Capitol Hill used and rare book seller is slated to reopen sometime in the next few weeks for the first time in almost a year.

Riverby Books at 417 East Capitol St. SE, which opened in 2001, has been closed since its owner, Steve Cymrot, was hit by a car and killed in November. Paul Cymrot, Steve’s son, said the store is set to reopen this month.

“Right now, we’re just letting the paint dry and building new shelves and displays,” he said. “When that is done enough that people won’t leave covered in paint and sawdust, then we’ll open.”

Cymrot said he began to look into reopening the store this summer and hired Lori Grisham, a Capitol Hill resident who worked at the store for several years, to manage the shop. Cymrot said he and Grisham will continue to focus on rare and hard-to-find books.

“We realize that at the size we are we can’t carry every book,” he said. “What we can do here is pick very carefully and carry only books worth reading, things that are curated because we think they’re interesting and things we’ve never seen before.”

The store does not have any readings or events scheduled yet. But Cymrot said that he looks forward to hosting events in the future. He added that neighbors already have stopped by to offer their support while he puts the finishing touches on the store.

“Every day we’ve been in here working we’ve had people come up to the door and wish us well and ask when we’re going to open again,” he said.

Photo via Facebook/Riverby Books D.C.

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Children's books (Photo via Flickr/Lydia Liu)

(Updated at 9 p.m.) A store on the H Street corridor is asking for book donations this weekend to help bring more reading opportunities to children who use a nearby recreation center.

Akae at 1320 H St. NE will accept gently used books for the Sherwood Recreation Center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, during the H Street Festival.

The store, which  opened in June, is looking for books for readers of all ages, said Aphra Adkins, who runs Akae with Seda Nak. Adkins noted, however, that many of the locals who visit the recreation center at 640 10th St. NE are 18 years old or younger.

“The center does a great job ensuring that everyone has a positive experience,” said Adkins, who is also the business manager of Sally’s Middle Name, which shares the same building as Akae. But the center has “a sad book collection,” she said.

“Anything is helpful,” Adkins said of book donations.

Photo via Flickr/Lydia Liu


Capitol Hill next month is set to lose a store that has sold wigs of seemingly all sizes, colors and styles for more than a decade on Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Kay Wigs at 325 Pennsylvania Ave. SE is slated to close Oct. 31, after losing its lease, shop owner Kay Kim said today. Kim’s landlord is planning to sell the building that has housed the store in its basement for 13 years, she said.

Kim, who started her business in the 1970s, said she is looking to sell wigs by mail or at another location following her store’s closure. But for now, she is offering discounts of 20 to 75 percent off on wigs, as well as the jewelry, hats and other accessories that she sells.

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Capitol Hill Sporting Goods & Apparel

A Barracks Row sports retailer is set to shut down before the year’s end, becoming the latest shop in a string of stores that have closed or are slated to cease business on 8th Street SE in 2015.

The closure of Capitol Hill Sporting Goods & Apparel at 727 8th St. SE later this year would follow the recent shuttering of the Be With Me Playseum on Barracks Row and Homebody’s impending move from 8th Street to 7th Street SE.

Rodney Smith, owner of Capitol Hill Sporting Goods & Apparel, said his 14-year-old shop is having trouble competing. Capitol Hill Corner first reported on his struggles last year.

“There’s just too much competition in the area,” he told Hill Now. “Any time you bring in five Wal-Marts to one area, how are we supposed to compete?”

Smith said he didn’t know what he would do after his store closes.

“I’ve just got to get out of this mess first,” he said.

It wasn’t clear exactly when the shop would close or what would replace it. But the store is offering a discount of up to 50 percent on all stock until its final day of business.

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Escape the Oval OfficeThe H Street corridor this week will get its first “escape rooms” from which people can try to get out, for a fee.

Escape the Room — H Street will open to customers for the first time Friday at 1322B H St. NE. The activity space also will be open Saturday and Sunday, before it begins its normal operations July 14.

The space has two rooms with clues, puzzles and locks that as many as 10 visitors must solve before they can leave.

One of the rooms, “Escape the Oval Office,” features “a group of spies disguised as White House fellows [who] are on a mission to amend the original copy of the United States Constitution and get out before the president returns to the Oval Office” in 60 minutes, according to a news release. The space is intended for adults and older children.

The other room, Escape the Classroom, has visitors “retrace the steps of the fictional teacher to find the misplaced key in time to catch the last school bus before the weekend,” the news release says. The space is designed for children who are 5 to 8 years old. They have 45 minutes to escape the room.

“It will be challenging” for all ages, said Ayanna Smith, a co-owner of the escape rooms.

For this weekend, admission is $15 for adults and $7.50 for children. Normally, admission will be $25 for adults and $15 for children.

The activity space accepts reservations for the escape rooms online.

Image via Escape the Room — H Street


Labyrinth Games & Puzzles on owner Kathleen Donahue

Hill Now periodically publishes profiles of locals — from longtime residents to newcomers, from government officials to ordinary folks. Know someone we should feature? Email us at [email protected].

A few well-placed rolls of the dice past the Eastern Market Metro station will land gamers at the door of Labyrinth Games & Puzzles on Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Upon entering, customers will find owner Kathleen Donahue and her staff stocking the shelves with an array of games such as Magic the Gathering and Settlers of Catan.

The groups of retired scrabblers and young dungeon masters sitting at tables in the back are a far departure from her previous clients at a small consulting firm — but she likes it that way.

When Donahue started her store at 645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE in November 2011, she had the idea of selling gifts and games for school-aged children. Then, Capitol Hill moms began telling other adults about her store and a devoted adult clientele who sought intelligent, complex games emerged.

Now about to celebrate its fifth anniversary and the renewal of its five-year lease, Labyrinth is giving back to the community that originally launched its success.

Labyrinth runs after-school programs with 15 local schools, summer camps for children and free events every night for a variety of gaming communities.

Donahue said hosting events like birthday parties were always part of the plan. But she said she became passionate about community outreach after acting on suggestions from her customers.

“When I started the store I wanted something I could build,” Donahue said. “Money wasn’t really the issue. I really wanted a job where I could bring my son to work and a job where I could give back to the community.”


The small sporting goods store on 8th Street SE won’t close this month after all.

Capitol Hill Sporting Goods & Apparels will remain at 727 8th St. SE through at least next September after owner Rodney Smith negotiated a new lease with the building owner.

“We came to an understanding that’s going to be good for both of us,” Smith said this morning (Tuesday).

After 13 years on Barracks Row, Smith began liquidating the store’s jerseys, hats and memorabilia in November in preparation to leave this month at the end of his lease.

He previously said that foot traffic is low for what he said is the only small, minority-owned sporting goods store in the region.

Smith thanked people who have inquired about the future of the longtime business.

“I want to thank all our loyal customers for supporting us and being concerned about us leaving,” he said.

The store is running a holiday overstock sale now, with discounts of 30 to 50 percent on team merchandise.

Photos via Google Maps and Facebook/Capitol Hill Sporting Goods


Business grants map (Photo via

Dozens more small businesses in the Capitol Hill Historic District, near Union Station and close to the intersection of Benning and Bladensburg roads NE can now apply for capital improvement grants from the city.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development recently overhauled eligibility boundaries for entrepreneurs seeking grants of as much as $85,000 each.

The new boundaries for H Street NE Small Business Capital Improvement Grants run from roughly K Street NE to the north, 17th Street NE to the east, F Street NE to the south and 1st Street NE to the west. Prior to the new rules issued Nov. 17, eligible businesses had to be located on H Street NE between 3rd and 15th streets NE.

“The purpose of the grants is to support existing small businesses, attract new businesses, increase the District’s tax base, create new job opportunities for District residents, and transform the H Street NE corridor into a thriving and inviting neighborhood center,” a guide from DMPED says.

The grants reimburse business owners for build-outs, renovations, facade improvements and equipment upgrades. Full information is available on the office’s website.

Image via


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